Fears

“The presence of fear does not mean you have no faith. Fear visits everyone. But make your fear a visitor and not a resident.” – Max Lucado

I prayed my fears would go away. Then I thought of those that were logical to keep. And a couple of others that I didn’t know who I’d be without. I realized that my fears had become my friends. They are terrible friends!

“They all have to go. Lord, deliver me from fear, from anxiety. I mean it this time. I want to live a life of faith – reflected by calm, peace, serene acceptance, trusting you for everything, with everything, always.”

Is that what you want, too? A heart at rest? A mind at ease? I think we all acknowledge there are things to be afraid of, but most of what plagues us are fears we have that are irrational, unnecessary. Those are the ones that have to go. How? By recognizing that they come from our own insecurities, not from God. By focusing on God and all the promises of his love, care, protection, and peace. Fear is a big motivation to pray without ceasing! (1 Thessalonians 5:17)

It takes practice to do that, and I’m not there yet, but as long as we engage in the struggle for faith big enough to overcome fear, we’re not defeated. We leave room for God to work and for his great love to overcome our human fears. Faith and fear are uneasy companions, and faith defeats fear every time. Let’s not give up our quest for internal peace! It can be ours.

“Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.” – Jesus to his disciples in John 14:27

From this day on . . .

 “The only way to get rid of your past is to make a future out of it. God will waste nothing.” – Philips Brooks

Here we are on the brink of a new year – a time of introspection, resolutions, and commitment to change. There are always things we want to improve about ourselves or things we regret in the year gone by, but maybe a new page on the calendar can also give us new hope.

Haggai, an Old Testament prophet, gave this message: “From this day on I will bless you” (Haggai 2:19b). God was pointing to an exact moment when he would stop his punishment on the wayward Israelites, and everything would get better. What caused God’s change of heart? It was when the people began to rebuild the temple that had been destroyed by Babylon’s armies. Maybe they didn’t realize what a huge turning point their obedience was in God’s eyes.

In so many ways, every day holds the possibility of being a turning point – not just January 1 or days of momentous decisions. Each day we can pursue God, develop friendships, reach out to those in need, and give our very best to our work and our families. We never know which encounter in the routine of our days will, in fact, be a turning point for us or for someone else.

Who knows what the new year will bring? Only God. I’m excited about facing each new day with anticipation of God’s fresh mercies and continued direction. I hope you join me in choosing to live in God’s light, receiving and cherishing his blessings “from this day on.”

“Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed,
    for his compassions never fail.
 They are new every morning;
    great is your faithfulness.”
– Lamentations 3:22b-23

I did it my way.

“There will be no peace in any soul until it is willing to obey the voice of God.” D.L. Moody

If you’re one who prides yourself in doing things your way, beware. There are examples in the Bible where the “my way” approach didn’t work out so well. Here’s one:

In Israel’s early history, the Ark of the Covenant was captured by an enemy. When David became king, he was determined to get the Ark back. So he sent people to bring it home. God had given specific instructions about this Ark – how to carry it and who could get near it. I imagine David saw this as a one-of-a-kind situation – an exception – and chose efficiency over obedience. By doing it his way instead of God’s, a good man died while trying to steady the Ark so it didn’t fall off the cart. The problem was that it never should have been on a cart in the first place, and God was not pleased with the “my way” approach.

Obedience to God can be hard because what he asks may not always make sense to us, but we realize he sees things we cannot see, and he has standards of right and wrong that only he has a right to define. If we are wise, we humbly accept his way as the way we will follow – even if it means we have to give up something we really want to have or do.

We have ideas for living our lives that seem reasonable to us, but if our way includes things that are not part of God’s way, we’re asking for trouble. His way is always right – no compromises, no “just this once”. Our way is never better than God’s way.

“Be careful to observe my commandments. I am the Lord.” – Leviticus 22:31

The Horse and I

“Let God have your life; he can do more with it than you can.” – Dwight L. Moody

I don’t know much about horses. But, here I was at a ranch for a weekend with my daughter and granddaughter. Because my granddaughter loves horses and wanted me to experience them, too, we all signed up for the trail ride. And I learned something.

We were shown how to use the reins and told not to let our horse get too close to the horse in front of him and not to let him eat foliage along the way. So, determined to do it right, we set out. I pulled on Cairo’s reins when he got too close to Hoss, and I steered him away from the plants along the trail. Eventually, though, he got tired of being micromanaged. He tossed his head and snorted a couple of times. He was not happy!

So, I decided to quit fighting him (he’s bigger than I am!), and I let the reins go slack. He settled into a pattern he was comfortable with, and we finished the ride better friends than we were when we started.

Are you a little bit like me? Wanting to hang on tight to the reins, to steer, to be in control? Sometimes, I think everyone around us would be better off if we stop trying so hard to be safe, right, and in charge. It would be good for us, too, just to realize that God is the only one who can change people or protect us.

And, best of all, when we yield to him, we can enjoy the ride!


“I do not occupy myself with things
    too great and too marvelous for me.
But I have calmed and quieted my soul,
    like a weaned child with its mother;”
– Psalm 131:1b-2a

Insight

“A moment of insight from God is worth a lifetime of experience.” – Anonymous

There’s a lot we cannot see with our eyes.

The story in the Bible that gives dramatic evidence of this is when the King of Syria sent a whole army to capture Elisha, and Elisha is calm, but his servant is terrified. So Elisha asks God to open his servant’s eyes so he can see what Elisha already knows: There are heavenly chariots of fire all around them! The servant had been afraid because he couldn’t see the protection God had already provided.

God can help us see the things we cannot see on our own. And praying for him to help us see is biblical, “Open my eyes that I may behold wonderful things out of your law” (Psalm 119:18).

Those might be insights to understand the messages in God’s Word, yes, but I have found there are more ways God helps us to see.

He can give insight . . .

. . . to sense when someone says they’re fine when they’re not.

. . . to clearly discern the direction we are to take.

. . . to know when to instruct and when to confront.

. . . to understand today’s events in light of eternity.

. . . to ‘see’ the heavenly help we receive when the battle seems overwhelming.

I believe God wants us to live in the light of his revelation every day. Commitment to constant walking with him allows us to see the things only he can reveal, and our decisions, understanding, and relationships take on new and richer dimensions. Open my eyes, Lord!

“. . . that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of him, having the eyes of your hearts enlightened, that you may know what is the hope to which he has called you . . .” – Ephesians 1:17-18a

Old Friends

“Wishing to be friends is quick work, but friendship is a slow ripening fruit.” -Aristotle

I had a best friend in the 5th grade. She and I both liked to write – we wrote stories and poems (hers were better than mine!). We rode bikes, and we were involved together in kids clubs and, later, the youth group at our church. We had spiritual and philosophical conversations that grew in quality through the years.

We remained friends through high school, then our paths diverged (including moving from our hometown), as they often do, though we kept in touch somewhat through social media.

Recently we’ve had the opportunity to reconnect. We scheduled a time to meet and talked for two hours. That wasn’t enough, so we met a few days later and talked for 2 1/2 hours. So many parallel stories and a multitude of memories and revelations; so much common ground in our families – parents, children, grandchildren; our education and career experiences; and, best of all, our commitment to a step-by-step, year-by-year walk with God.

At some point we realized the value of what we had in each other. Growing a friendship takes time. Not just activity time, or conversation time, but years of time. We both have newer friends we value very much, but neither of us has the time to develop a half-century long friendship with another person.

Do you have a friend like that? Maybe it’s time to reconnect and to recognize the value in such a relationship.

Do you need a friend like that? Maybe you don’t have decades to build it, but use the time you have. Be a friend, find a friend. Spiritual friendship is one of the greatest gifts we can give or receive.

“As iron sharpens iron, so a friend sharpens a friend.” – Proverbs 27:17, (NLT)

Just ask.

Let your cares drive you to God. I shall not mind if you have many of them if each one leads you to prayer. If every fret makes you lean more on the Beloved, it will be a benefit.” – Charles Spurgeon

Do you find it hard to ask for help? A lot of us do. We want to think we can figure things out on our own, we can tackle any problem. And we don’t want to be a bother to anyone else.

That independent attitude might be admired by some, but not by God.

He wants us to express our needs to him. He wants us to look at every life situation as an invitation to turn to him. In fact, James tells us that sometimes he is just waiting for us to ask: “You do not have, because you do not ask” (James 4:2b). So, I have been asking, and he welcomes my requests every single time.

I’ve figured something else out, too. It has become clear to me that God uses our requests as ways to respond to us at the point of our deepest needs. Do we need patience? He might make us wait a while before he answers. Do we need humility? He might remind us to submit to his will. Do we need comfort? That’s the Holy Spirit’s specialty, and prayer opens our hearts to receive.

Do you understand? God’s greatest desire is to be connected to us, to provide for us, to comfort and lead us. Praying, asking, and just talking to him opens the doors for his love to flow back to us. Just ask. That’s the way he wants it.

Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. Philippians 4:6

The Happiest Being in the Universe

“If you want to get warm you must stand near the fire: if you want to be wet you must get into the water. If you want joy, power, peace, eternal life, you must get close to, or even into, the thing that has them. – C. S. Lewis

Author John Ortberg tells us that “God is the happiest being in the universe.” Our joyful, creative, energetic, and passionate Father wants us to be happy, too.

In fact, joy is part of the Fruit of the Spirit described in Ephesians 5. When God uses agricultural images like fruit, I think he’s reminding us of what farmers already know: Growing anything takes patience. We sometimes want to hurry the process by using earthly pleasures to manufacture joy, but what we get then is a poor substitute for the real thing.

True joy grows over time. I think the Holy Spirit plants the seeds and then, with our cooperation, helps those seeds grow into full, ripe, abundant fruit.

What might our cooperation in growing this fruit look like? Here are three assessment questions that help me when I’ve lost my joy:

Who am I trying to please? If it’s another person or even people in general, we’ll be frustrated. If it’s God alone, we will experience his pleasure. And that makes us happy.

Is my focus on the temporary or the eternal? Having a long view helps us forego an immediate pleasure for a future reward. That brings peaceful confidence.

How close am I to the Happiest Being in the Universe? God’s effusive joy will overflow to us if we consciously engage with him all day long.

If our focus is on knowing and pleasing God more than anything else, joy will come. Guaranteed smiles.

“Shout for joy in the Lord, O you righteous.” Psalm 33:1

Some things take time.

Biblically, waiting is not just something we have to do until we get what we want. Waiting is part of the process of becoming what God wants us to be. – John Ortberg

David was anointed by God when he was young, tending his father’s sheep. He knew he would be king, but God had some preparation to do before that could happen.

David was brought into King Saul’s circle and, while there, became a popular public persona. Saul, though, was not impressed, and he planned ways to kill David – so much so, that David ran for his life.

It must have been frustrating moving from place to place, living sometimes in desert caves, always on the alert for Saul’s armies as they chased him. But what happened to David in these intervening years?

He grew up. He went from being a young boy to being a mature man.

He became strong. He fought many battles, growing in courage and confidence.

He learned to lead. There were 600 men who became his defenders. They were described as bitter, in-debt, and distressed. But they were loyal to David, and he led them to become more than they ever dreamed they could be – God’s ragtag army.

He became discerning. There were two times David did not take an opportunity to kill Saul. He knew there was a better way and was willing to wait for God’s plan. His actions show wisdom and spiritual understanding.

God didn’t waste the desert years in David’s life and he won’t waste yours either. If you are waiting for God’s next move, be patient. Know that he is using this time to prepare you for what is yet to come. Trust his grace.

“I wait for the Lord, my soul waits, and in his word I hope;” – Psalm 130:5

Planning Ahead

“Christ told his disciples not to be anxious about tomorrow, but he never said not to consider tomorrow. Intelligent problem solving demands careful consideration of the future effects of present solutions.” – R. C. Sproul

How are you at planning? Some personalities like to “wing it”, assuming everything will be OK. There may be times for just taking what comes and enjoying the ride. Most times, though, we need to plan. The book of Proverbs tells us that, and our Creator shows us this truth by example.

Paul says that God planned for our redemption before the world was created. He knew if he created beings with free will in a world where Satan could tempt, they would fall, and they would need a Redeemer. He foresaw it and planned for it before he said, “Let there be light.”

Most of us love this message to Israel that we claim, too: “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope” (Jeremiah 29:11). There’s comfort and even awe in knowing God is planning ahead for each of us.

And he has a plan for how this world will end and the new eternal world will begin. The book of Revelation shows that plan in visions and pronouncements. It’s a hard book to figure out, but we do know God’s plan will unfold exactly as he envisions it.

We have responsibilities and dreams that will never be fulfilled if we don’t plan carefully. What is it for you today? Financial security? Emotional healing? Healthy relationships? Intimacy with God?

Yes, we live by faith, but our faith must be accompanied by some God-guided planning!

“The heart of man plans his way, but the Lord establishes his steps.” – Proverbs 16:9